In recent years, the subject of mental health has received some much-needed attention. More research has gone into it than ever before and people have been made more comfortable about admitting their mental health issues. During the pandemic especially, there was a lot of focus on dealing with the unprecedented stress and anxiety being faced by individuals the world over.
However, even with such levels of acceptance, talking about work stress still remains a taboo. It is something that you’re expected to ‘adjust to’ because ‘everybody is dealing with it.’
I work in the advertising industry. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the high amount of anxiety involved. So, when a team is overburdened, forced to work through night, they’re not allowed to complain. If someone raises an issue with their superiors, the answer is simply, “We’re also equally stressed.”
Now that’s not something I can deny – work produces stress no matter how experienced you are, which industry you work in, or if you run your own business. But it’s the meek acceptance that we’re forced into that hurts me. Working 10-12 hour shifts has become a norm during the work from home scenario. There are no weekends or weekly offs because you’re always just one call away. And the worst part is that you can’t complain.
You can’t quit either. Even the thought of taking a break for your mental health seems disastrous. How bad will it look on your CV? Will the next company consider you weak? What excuse will I give to the company, or even to my friends and family? Even they won’t understand. They’ll ask you to take a couple of days off to unwind. But how can you unwind when you know the same mind-numbing exhaustion is waiting for you on the other side of the supposed vacation?
I think organisations across the country need to prioritise this topic. The working structure we’ve formed – it’s almost impossible to reduce the stress now. But the least we can do is be open to admitting that work stress is a serious mental issue. Be polite to your employees and understand their plight. If a colleague looks knackered, don’t ask them to shrug it off because ‘such is life’. Be there for them, see if you can cover up for them for a few days so they get a well-deserved break. Take a stand for them. If your boss is stressed, make things easier for them. Take responsibility for a few days and let them unwind.
And most importantly, if your work is taking your stress and anxiety beyond the bearable threshold – and if your circumstances allow for it – quit. Be honest to your employer, future employer and to yourself. You can get a new job, but not a new life.
Akul Sharma is an armchair philosopher, mystic thinker, and a human being trying to figure out the purpose of existence.